Userkaf


Userkaf
King 2494-2487 BC.
    The first king of the Fifth Dynasty, Userkaf was perhaps a descendant of a secondary branch of *Cheops' family. He probably strengthened his claim to the throne by marrying *Khentkaues, and was succeeded by his sons *Sahure and *Neferirkare.
    In the Westcar Papyrus, the folk-tale mentions Userkaf as one of the triplets born to the wife of a priest of Re, who is destined to exercise the divine kingship in Egypt. Although the story gives an inaccurate description of his parentage, he undoubtedly ushered in a dynasty that gave unprecedented power to the priesthood of Re. The epithet 'son of Re' was first adopted by the kings at an earlier date, but the Fifth Dynasty rulers began to use it as part of their official titulary. On the Palermo Stone it is recorded that Userkaf made offerings and gifts of land to the sun-god.
    A new type of monument was introduced by Userkaf; this was a special type of sun-temple which emphasised the close association this dynasty had with the cult of Re, and these temples continued to be built throughout the first eight reigns of the dynasty. Built at Abu Ghurob, some distance to the south of Giza, the sun-temples reflected the lay-out of a pyramid complex, having a valley building, a causeway, and the equivalent of a funerary temple and a pyramid, but here, the king's burial place was replaced by an open court in which stood a squat stone obelisk mounted on a platform. This was supposed to imitate the Benben stone at Heliopolis, where it formed the central feature of Re's temple and probably represented a sun-ray and the god's cult-symbol. At least six kings of this dynasty are known to have built sun-temples, but so far only two of these have been located and excavated, including that of Userkaf.
    The sun-temples underlined the royal piety to Re; they provide a contrast with the emphasis that the previous dynasty had placed on the king's own burial place. The kings of the Fifth Dynasty continued to build pyramids for themselves, although these were constructed of inferior materials and, instead of using stone throughout, the core was made of brickwork. Userkaf's pyramid was at Saqqara and resembled those of *Cheops and *Mycerinus in its layout. It was in a ruinous state by the time it was discovered and had been used as a quarry in antiquity. The walls of the court were covered with finest quality reliefs which preserved part of a fowling scene, and in the temple, the head of a magnificent colossal statue of the king was discovered; this was of red granite, and is now in the Cairo Museum. A smaller head of Userkaf was found in his sun-temple.
BIBL. Stock, H. Das Sonnenheiligtum des Konigs Userkaf. ZAS 80 (1955) pp. 140-44; Lauer, J.P. Le temple haut de la pyramide du roi Ouserkaf a Saqqarah. Ann. Serv. 53 (1955) pp. 119-33; Ricke, H. Erster Grabungsbericht uber das Sonnenheiligtum des Konigs Userkaf bei Abusir. Ann. Serv. 54 (1956-7) pp. 75-82, 305-16; Dritter Grabungsbericht uber das Sonnenheiligtum des Konigs Userkaf bei Abusir. Ann. Serv. 55 (1958) pp 73-7.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David
* * *
(reigned c. 2494–2487 BC)
   First ruler of Dynasty 5. According to a later legend in the Westcar Papyrus, he was the eldest of triplet sons of Rededet, a priestess of Re. The story is fictitious but emphasizes the attachment of the new dynasty to the cult of Re. The king built a sun temple at Abu Ghurab near Abusir, which was excavated by a Swiss expedition during the 1950s, but he was buried in a pyramid at Saqqara, which was opened in 1881. His pyramid complex was excavated by various archaeologists from 1889 onward and more recently by a French team from 1966–1973, in 1979, from 1987–1988, and from 1993–1997.
Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt by Morris L. Bierbrier

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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